Final numbers of BAE Systems Challenger 2 main battle tanks to go through a life extension programme (LEP) may dip from the current envisaged 227 vehicle total to keep the project within budget.
It is hoped to formally launch the project early next year when initial gate approval is scheduled to be given by UK government ministers, according to Colonel Nick Hunter, Deputy Programme Leader, Armoured Vehicle Programmes at the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) procurement organisation.
"The intention is to convert 227 tanks, but that depends on what is affordable" said Col Hunter, who said there was still an enduring requirement for main battle tanks. "Nothing quite replaces it", he added.
The LEP focuses on finding ways of replacing obsolete components, many of which have gone out of production. Col Hunter said, although the army had looked at installing new capabilities, such as new main armament and ammunition, this has had to take a back seat.
"We intend to use same cannon and ammunition," he said. "The fiscal climate does not allow us to go to a smooth bore [main armament], but there is appetite for that. What's affordable to do is a different matter."
Col Hunter confirmed that the intention of DE&S to run a competition for the programme. "We have a credible route to drive competition into the programme," he said.
According to Col Hunter, final numbers for the Challenger 2 LEP programme would depend on decisions by the army's newly established capability branch at Headquarters Army at Andover, Hampshire, which last year received new delegated powers to manage the services equipment procurement and support budgets.
He said the capability branch was still in the process of finalising its requirements and budgets for all major vehicle fleets over the next decade.
The final numbers of Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme would be set next year, he said. This was also the case with the newly launched armoured battlefield support vehicle, wheeled utility vehicle and multi-role protected - vehicle projects.
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